Electronic Design

Consumer Demands Set IC-Packaging Blueprint

Historically, the consumer's desire to be assisted and entertained by digital information has been the driving force toward smaller and lighter products. Because of the consumer's inherent need to be mobile, products must be small and light enough to not become an impediment. Mobile phones, PDAs, MP3 players, camcorders, and digital cameras are just some examples of mobile products that gained wider acceptance as they shrank.

But to make products more compact and lighter, their ICs must become tinier. This doesn't simply mean smaller package dimensions. They must also fit well together to create a smaller end product. Of course, cost also is a major factor in consumer products, where fractions of a cent can make or break an end-product manufacturer's choice of an OEM IC product in very large volumes. Therefore, packaging developments must maintain a low-cost perspective and avoid esoteric but prohibitively expensive approaches.

Two notable trends these days permeate IC packaging. One is the development of QFN/SON (quad-flat no-lead/small-outline no-lead) lead-frame-based packages. The other is extremely thin, fine-pitch BGA and LGA (land-grid array) packages. While these packages have satisfactorily served a wide range of applications, they must still be refined further to better fit consumer-market applications. Routing will be a big challenge complicated by thinner substrate materials and die and innovations in wirebonding.

A paradigm shift in packaging, for example, was recently created by Silicon Storage Technology Inc. The company's Micro-Packages for its flash-memory product line sport heights as thin as 0.47 mm and a lead pitch of just 0.5 mm. The fine pitch and thin profile are influenced by the needs of mobile phone and digital camera manufacturers to create end products that fit in the palm of a consumer's hand and are less than a half-inch thick. These packages are expressly designed for Bluetooth products with demanding size, power, and cost constraints.

The rapid growth of the consumer electronics market, where many end products wind up in the trash can for recycling, has also created another challenge for package designers: the urgent need for environmentally friendly materials with an eye toward low and competitive costs. Many designs are now calling for leadfree (the material Pb) packaging instead of the conventional tin/lead (Sn/Pb) material found in many designs. We've addressed that concern by offering designers leadfree or conventional Sn/Pb versions of all our package options, including the new Micro-Packages.

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